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SCCF reimagines Wines in the Wild as ‘homeINstead’

By TIFFANY REPECKI / trepecki@breezenewspapers.com - | Oct 27, 2020

The Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation created a new format for this year’s Wines in the Wild, while still offering the food, drinks and fun attendees have enjoyed at the Bailey Homestead Preserve event.

Tom and Linda Uhler originally co-created the fundraiser 13 years ago as a way to promote SCCF, while also providing the island community with an event that would not be as serious as others.

“It would be fun. It would be something that people could enjoy doing that would allow for a lot of socializing,” Tom Uhler said, adding that people could catch up with those returning for season.

Plus, the proceeds would stay local and environmentally-focused.

“The funds go to promote all the programs that we do at SCCF,” Linda Uhler.

SCCF Bailey’s General Store wine steward Calli Johnson and fundraiser co-creator Tom Uhler work on selecting wines for the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation's 2020 Wines in the Wild.

But, with the ongoing health crisis, organizers had to think outside of the box.

“Obviously, we didn’t want to get people together. It was too risky for both the attendees and the staff,” Tom Uhler said, explaining that they sat down with some others and started bouncing around ideas.

A virtual or online event was not the direction they wanted to go.

“We just felt that people liked the food and the wine of the event,” he said. “They liked the ability to support SCCF — in a fun way.”

The idea to offer a “homeINstead” evening, encompassing the true spirit of the fundraiser, was born.

SCCF Melissa Donahue of Sweet Melissa’s Café

“You can do it alone or as a couple,” Tom Uhler said.

“You can even wear your pajamas if you want,” Linda Uhler added.

“Or invite friends over and socially distance,” he said.

Participants can reserve a “party box” for one person for $130 or $210 for two people. Each box will contain dishes created by local restaurants or chefs, two bottles of wine and other celebratory elements.

“We are giving you everything you need,” Tom Uhler said, explaining that there will be pairing suggestions for the contents and even a Spotify playlist. “They’ll have wine-related music to enjoy.”

SCCF Leslie Adams of Catering by Leslie Adams

Catering by Leslie Adams, Cielo, Spoondrift Island Bowls and Sweet Melissa’s Cafe are each creating one dish to go into the party boxes, with two matching one wine bottle and two matching the other.

“We have four kitchens that have offered to help,” Linda Uhler said.

Cielo will serve up caprese a la Cielo, with house-made mozzarella, confit tomatoes, fresh basil and balsamic reduction, and Spoondrift is making Moroccan-spiced roasted fall vegetable melange. Sweet Melissa’s will whip up coq au vin, which entails red wine braised chicken leg with root vegetables and egg noodles. Adams Catering is crafting Asian short ribs with sticky rice and green and ripe papaya.

She noted that a vegetarian option is available.

“We ask that they let us know when they reserve their box,” Linda Uhler said.

SCCF Cielo Executive Chef Melissa Akin

Tom Uhler explained that each party box will contain a bottle of white wine and a bottle of red wine. He and Calli Johnson, wine steward with Bailey’s General Store, got together to taste test their options and picked the Daou Sauvignon Blanc 2019 Paso Robles and the Bear Flag Zinfandel 2016 Sonoma.

“We had some ideas,” Tom Uhler said. “We wanted something that would be a little bit flexible.”

He noted that food and wine are made to go together.

“I like to say the wine should speak the same language as the food,” Tom Uhler said.

The party boxes will include a surprise dessert and other goodies — one of which is the container everything comes in. The Uhlers explained that they partnered up with The Hammerheads, an island group that volunteers its time to take care of repairs, to have custom-made fruit boxes constructed.

SCCF Malia and Jeff Samson of Spoondrift Island Bowls

“We want this to be a harken back to the old days on Sanibel,” he said of when Bailey’s shoppers took groceries home in a box. “People can use them for putting plants on the windowsill or something.”

“And it’s all from reclaimed wood,” Linda Uhler added. “We’re trying to make them sustainable.”

On Nov. 13, participants can stop by the SCCF Native Landscapes & Garden Center and pick up their pre-ordered party boxes. A touch-less drive-by set up will be used, with staff in masks and gloves.

Another new element to this year’s Wines in the Wild is the “50/50 + 10 Drawing.”

Up to Nov. 13, raffle tickets are available for $25 each or five for $100. The first winner drawn will receive the traditional 50/50 cash prize, then 10 more names will be picked to win a lot of wine.

“Those 10 will each get a lot of five bottles of wine,” Tom Uhler said.

Each lot is valued at no less than $160.

As an added bonus, everyone who purchases $100 worth of tickets will receive one automatic entry into a drawing for the chance to win a magnum of 2008 Dom Perignon, which is valued at $550.

Linda Uhler explained that the drawing offers an alternative way to support SCCF.

“If they are not able to order a box or are not interested in ordering one, but they are interested in purchasing the 50/50 tickets, then they can do that,” she said.

The community is invited to take part.

“Have a wonderful evening by yourself or with family or friends,” Tom Uhler said.

Linda Uhler added that the event supports a great cause.

“And we want people to have fun,” she said.

To reserve a party box or to purchase tickets, visit www.winesinthewildsccf.com.

Reservations are required by Nov. 6.

The SCCF Native Landscapes & Garden Center is at 1300 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel.